Getting an Early Start on Common Cores Using The Economist

I am reading my son’s school newsletter. It does an excellent job discussing the Common Cores. I know this because I use Common Cores all day myself. The school is calling for a 50/50 balance of literary and informational text. I support this because I am a serious professional nerd.  Literacy’s important.  I’m tired of people who can’t read a basic newspaper–which the American press has kindly reduced to a fifth grade level. I hear soon they’ll only be featuring world leaders with two-syllable last names that at least 75% of the American public can pronounce. Netanyahu, Fernandez de Kirchner and Berdimuhamedow will be banned from print media. Unless we act now. To paraphrase my beloved Tolstoy, who never did write much informational text and is therefore O-U-T–out in favor of better things, “How much Seuss does a man need?”

Banned Books

Banned Books

In honor of the transition to informational text, we read Shel Silverstein for the last time last night. That’s about 25% too much poetry. We’re way off our targets here, which can only hurt down the road. I’m packing up that nonsense to unpack the Common Cores. We’ll use my Economist, Foreign Policy, and Mother Earth News.

When Declan was born, I used to read op eds from The Wall Street Journal and articles from Sports Illustrated. Babies love this as long as you read with the right enthusiasm. Stories like “doping,” “scandal,” “end of the economic world as we know it,” have far better hooks than Yurtle the Turtle. The life-long skills they produce are invaluable.

He can now read stock reports even if they go into negative numbers–he’s not just accessing the literacy Common Cores, we’re reinforcing numeracy as well. That’s important. High school kids have lost the skills of memorizing basic math facts, and many stare mystified at an analog clock like it came straight out of science fiction. Numeracy is critical as well. Unless you’re The Boss.

I tell my students that they’re right, math isn’t important if they want to work in my business, because if they can’t calculate their paycheck, I get to pay them whatever I want. Heck, I might even pay them in gum.

“How many sticks of gum do I get this week, boss?”

“Well, if your wage is five sticks an hour and you worked fifteen hours…how many sticks should you get?” I say chomping on a wad and blowing a bubble, having underpaid Math Deprived Employee by two sticks. AND slammed him with a word problem just to illustrate my superiority in the Common Cores.

Common Core approved informational texts

Common Core approved informational texts

All this gets back to why it’s never too early to start promoting high-level informational text literacy. My son won’t learn how to rhyme, but he’ll build a darned good chicken coop. The article has pictures, so he will have art appreciation, too.

You can never read too much instructional material on permaculture and composting. I’ve made plenty of Learnist boards on informational subjects–I’m going to make him read those and answer a set of Socratic style questions, which I’ll provide for his whole kindergarten class in a lecture on career development.

I’ve sold the Seuss, hidden the Harry Potter, and sent out the Silverstein. Go Dog Go is gone, dawg, gone. Today, we’re going to analyze The Economist’s “Rough Guide to Hell.” (pictured above). Then, I’ll plug Hell into my GPS for a geography lesson sneaking 21st century skills tech skills in, too. You guessed it, more Common Cores.

We’re keeping the Dino encyclopedia, even though dinos are dead. Dead doesn’t send a good message, “Work hard and you can be extinct.” “No matter what you do, a giant meteor may wipe you out.” But it’s instructional, he likes it. It sends a grave warning about global warming (Science Common Cores) in addition to having very big words (instructional text literacy), so it can stay.

It’s 5AM. Declan just waltzed into the living room, “Mommy, I can’t sleep.” I said, “Come on, let’s get started tackling these Common Cores.” He took Fluffy the Sheep and ran back to bed. Which is probably just as well. I want him well rested for when the learning begins.

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Getting an Early Start on Common Cores Using The Economist

  1. I hold “common core” responsible for the imminent demise of the picture book. If you push reading down to the preschool level, turning picture books into things only “babies” read (what I hear from my 2nd and 3rd graders), the market for these lovelies becomes slim indeed. And that’s only one of my many gripes.

    My question to you is this: Do you have a plan that could supersede common core? If you do, I’ll nominate you to fill Sec. Duncan’s shoes.

    • Well, I’ve been through multiple sets of standards. I support the thought that students should be ready and skill-based, but I see no reason to emphasize informational text any more than I see the reason that everyone always read Shakespeare in the cannon instead of Achebe or Allende. Literacy is critical, as is numeracy. I would love to teach all classes together–integrate the tough stuff, make it real. For example, I had students grading presentations by raising scores today. This brought up the concept of “the statistical outlier.” The one kid who gave it the off score. Henceforth, we did three stat concepts while discussing action plans for community improvement. I can turn anything into Serious Nerd… What could be better than Common Cores? Maybe Socrates.

      In the mean time, let us sketch up some picture books and toss them on Create Space… I can’t draw, though.

      • Yeah, my husband’s idea of the perfect education is sitting under a tree with Socrates as a teacher. You’d like our dinnertime conversation where we talk about Archimedes and Copernicus et al. I can’t draw, either. I’m just good for a few words and an occasional differential equation in a pinch.

      • Slow down there, I’m a teacher, I need to look up some of those words 😉 I’ve definitely got to get out there this summer…darned Skype. No one needs me in person.

  2. And yet, my HS kids are enthralled when I use picture books to infuse another layer into our lessons. Ah well, so much for “Oh The Places You’ll Go!” and “Is There Really A Human Race?”

    Great insight, Dawn. Is satire still in the common core?

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